Growth Gals Logo

How to Process Emotions

Emotional Awareness By: Katie Lister

January 10, 2024

What is emotional processing? Why can’t I process emotions? How can I learn how to process emotions? If you are curious about these questions, this article is for you.

Hi, I am Katie Lister, a practising Registered Nurse and the founder of Growth Gals, an interactive supportive network for women.

It is important for all women to learn how to process their emotions. Our emotions serve as signals that reflect our sense of safety, stability, and security. This article will give you all the information you need on how to process emotions.

Table of Contents

Katie Lister

Katie Lister

Written by Katie Lister, RN, BScN. An experienced Registered Nurse, Group Facilitator, Life Coach, and Community Leader. Read Katie's Full Author Bio

What Is Emotional Processing?

The process of emotional processing is a natural way to achieve emotional healing and also learn how to let go of anger. However, the ability to process emotions may differ from person to person and even from situation to situation. You may also process your emotions differently every time, as each problem may have its unique nature.

Emotions are how we feel when something (a stimulus) affects us. Five different emotions – fear, joy, anger, sadness, and disgust – are essential for survival. They help us deal with different situations in our lives. Developed in 1977 by Lange, the emotional processing theory proposes that we process emotions due to past emotional experiences.

Identifying and labeling your emotions are the basic steps to process them. However, defense mechanisms – subconscious ways of avoiding difficult emotions – can hinder emotional processing. Due to our limited awareness of defense mechanisms, we may unknowingly fail to process our emotions healthily.

Why Can't I Process My Emotions?

Processing emotions is an important component of personal development. It involves comprehending and managing emotions healthily and productively, which takes time. There are many reasons as to why one may have problems expressing their emotions:


Someone with trouble identifying and expressing emotions may have a condition known as alexithymia. This Greek term loosely translates into Sigmund Freud’s theories and means “no words for emotions” (Sigmund Freud was a neurologist). Alexithymia is not well known, yet the estimate is that one in ten people have it.

Alexithymia is seen as a secondary diagnosis in people with pre-existing mental health disabilities or issues like autism or depression. This does not mean every person with these conditions struggles to identify and express emotions.

Emotional dysregulation

Emotional dysregulation is a mental health symptom that can make it difficult to control your emotions and reactions. People around you may think your emotional response is more intense than necessary, and you will be seen as overreacting.

When you master emotional regulation, you can control how you react to situations. We learn to self-regulate as children and develop the skill as we age, and it’s a more significant part of our learning curve.

Emotional suppression

Emotions are our psychological responses to the world, including sadness, happiness, anger, surprise, disgust, contempt, and fear. People often suppress their feelings, using various methods such as numbing, distraction, over-exercising, or overeating.

Repressed emotions are pushed into the subconscious and often relate to traumatic childhood experiences. People suppress emotions for various reasons – to avoid unacceptable feelings, meet expectations, or deal with abuse and trauma, which causes life-long problems if not addressed.

How insecure are you? Learn about the signs here. 



You cannot feel your emotions when your body enters a dissociative state. This emotional state occurs when you are overwhelmed, and your body goes into survival mode, which results in blankness or numbness. This is what people experience when they say they went numb or blank during a traumatic incident.

Five causes of disassociation include:

  • Trauma
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Clinical depression
  • Tragedy
  • Substance abuse

Benefits Of Emotional Processing

There are numerous benefits you can enjoy when you learn how to process emotions. Some of the most important benefits include:

Higher (EI) emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is being able to recognize and comprehend one’s own emotions and those of others. It helps people navigate complex situations in their personal and professional lives. High emotional intelligence involves awareness of and understanding emotions, leading to better handling of challenging situations.

Better physical health

There’s a strong correlation between emotional and physical health. People who can deal with their emotions tend to have lower stress levels, which can lead to numerous other health benefits. These include a lower risk of strokes, heart disease, and depression.

General life satisfaction

People who manage their emotions are more satisfied with their lives. This is likely because they are less likely to be weighed down by negative emotions and can better appreciate the good times.

Stronger relationships

If you can effectively process your emotions, you will likely have more robust and more satisfying relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. These relationships work because you can handle conflict and effectively communicate your needs.

Better quality of sleep

Your sleep quality reduces when you are stressed and anxious. People who process their emotions spend less time ruminating (obsessing over an incident) and have much better sleep quality.

How To Process Emotions

You can use various means to help you process your emotions:


Journaling is one of the most powerful ways to process emotions; writing down your feelings is therapeutic. You can write down anything without fear of being misunderstood or judged. Research indicates that journaling helps to control emotions by allowing you to track your daily symptoms and prioritize your fears. For instance, journaling helps you identify your triggers if you feel sad or angry. Writing also allows you to have positive self-talk and identify your limiting beliefs and negative thoughts.

Journaling helps you in:

  • Stress reduction
  • Anxiety management
  • Coping with Depression


Heart-pumping exercises like HIIT or running are better for processing emotions like heartbreak or anger than walking or light biking. They can significantly reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while increasing resilience.


Meditation is a technique that helps clear the mind, but it can also assist us in processing our emotions. It allows us to pause and gain some perspective on the emotions we are experiencing, whether positive or negative. If you want to try meditation, you can download a guided meditation app like Headspace. Meditation is an excellent opportunity for you to process your emotions.


Play some music

If you feel sad, need a good cry, or feel energized, play some music. Music is among the best ways to process emotions- joy, sadness, anger, etc. Create a playlist with music for every mood and play it when you feel intense emotions that you need to process. 


Crying is an excellent way to release pent-up emotional pain. Crying makes your body produce dopamine or the feel-chemical and can help make you feel better.

Write a gratitude list

A gratitude list allows you to process emotions by helping you get your life into perspective. This greatly helps when processing negative feelings like anger, sadness, and frustration. You get to be grateful for what you have instead of complaining about what you don’t have.

Get Enough sleep

When we are tired at night, we tend to start overthinking and struggling with unpleasant emotions. After a good night’s sleep, you can see everything clearly, which helps in better decision-making. Sleep also helps you refuel, process your feelings, and improve your general well-being.

Practice Breathing

Practice taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly. This will help to calm you down when you feel agitated, stressed, or anxious.

Seek Therapy

Check-in for wellness therapy if you cannot do this alone. A therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a talking therapy that assists people manage their problems by changing how they think and behave.

How To Process Emotions - The 4 Stages

Emotional processing has four distinct stages.

Stage 1

Recognize your feelings

You need to start noticing and be aware of your emotional experience. There are no good or bad emotions, just experiences that help us to know ourselves and our surroundings better. This step involves doing less and being more aware. The best way to process your emotions is by becoming an observer and not feeling like that experience defines who you are.

Stage 2

Allow the Emotions to be

Once you identify the emotion, let it be. Experiencing unpleasant emotions is a part of life. Whatever we resist will persist, so the more you resist emotional pain, the more it persists. Immerse yourself into the emotions and let it all out.

Stage 3

Explore the Emotions

After identifying your feelings and letting them be, start exploring. Ask yourself what you feel, why you feel that way, where you feel the emotion, what the emotion tells you, etc. Ask yourself all sorts of questions, like what you observed and experienced before the emotions. Feel the answers instead of answering them in your head. 

Be present; your body will tell you what you need to know. Name the emotions you feel out loud and keep practicing naming the emotions as an experience, not a part of you or your identity. For instance, you can say, “I feel a sadness in my stomach/throat,” instead of I am sad. Separate the emotions from your identity to prevent them from presenting as part of your identity.

Stage 4 

Validate the Emotions

Acknowledge and explore your emotions, then validate them. All emotions are valid, and suppressing them leads to further resistance. Allow yourself to experience various emotions and validate them for comfort and self-love. Processing emotions can lead to peace of mind.

Growth Gals Can Help With Emotional Processing!

Attention to all the incredible women out there looking to improve themselves! Are you interested in understanding emotional processing deeper? Look no further than Growth Gals, a supportive community of like-minded women who can help you learn everything there is to know about emotional processing and how to better explore your emotions.

Follow @growthgals_ on Instagram to stay updated on our goal-setting journals, coaching, and support groups. Be sure to check out our newsletter for the latest tips and tricks on personal growth. Join us now and start your journey towards learning how to process your emotions.

In Conclusion

Processing your emotions is a journey. You must evaluate yourself and discover why you cannot process your emotions. It could be due to alexithymia, emotional dysregulation, and suppression. Take the mentioned measures to process, talk to a therapist, or join Growth Gals!

Scroll to Top
Weekly Newsletter

Stay Inspired by Growth Gals

Sign Up for Personal Growth Tips, Free Tools, and Relatable Advice! 

We promise no nonsense or spam :)